Jack O'Neill stood miserably in the pouring rain, feeling awkward
and empty. He'd spent most of the past fourteen days suppressing his
true emotions, trying to keep it together for the sake of his team and
for Cassie, a kid of only seventeen, who was now Motherless and alone.
Well not truly alone, after all she had Carter, Daniel, Teal'c, Hammond
and old 'Uncle' Jack. None the less, she was still legally an orphan
once more. He'd already ascertained that no parent should outlive their
child; neither should a child, still so young, lose a parent, and Cassie
had lost parents twice over, before she'd even hit eighteen.
What did anyone say to a kid who'd endured so much? He'd never
been much for words, or knowing how to utter comforting clichès. On top
of that fact, he'd been out of it that first few days, after the Doc had
bought it, as she'd tried to save one of the youngsters who'd taken a
hit that fateful day. Jack had been wounded in the first assault wave
and lay unconscious for over seventy-two hours. Fact was he was damn
lucky. If he'd not been wearing the new ceramic Armour tucked into his
Omega vest, he'd be in a box six feet under, just like the Doc. Thus,
Janet had been gone over a week before he'd even been allowed out of the
infirmary, feeling awkward and unsure of just what to do, when he at
last had gone to speak with Cassie.
As soon as she'd seen him, Cassie had rushed to him and buried
her head against his chest, sobbing her eyes out. Gasping in pain, as
she had clutched his fresh wounds. It had taken all of Jack's strength
to ignore his discomfort and bury his own feelings of loss. He'd had a
lot of practice in ignoring his own emotions over the years and somehow,
he stayed in control, allowing only a single tear to escape, wrapping
her tightly in his arms, as she cried herself to sleep.
Carter and Daniel had made all the necessary arrangement for the
public funeral. Teal'c had had a hand in the remarks Carter had made at
Janet's memorial service, arranged so splendidly by General Hammond.
But, due to his incapacitation, Jack had been unable to contribute
anything at all, to this final act in the story of Major Janet Fraiser
M.D., and therefore, he had no sense of closure.
So now, he here stood alone, in a downpour, alongside Janet's
freshly turned grave, trying to say his own private goodbye.
The civilian funeral had ended hours ago. He'd seen Cassie safely
to Carter's for the night, making sure they both had eaten and gone to
rest, before taking his leave. Daniel had gone off on his own to lick
his wounds; he'd been withdrawn since it'd happened. Teal'c, the silent
tower of strength, had accompanied the General back to the SGC. So Jack
was free to let loose his own pain and sorrow. But it would not come.
Instead he stood dry eyed and tense, ignoring the rain as it slid icily
down his collar, wondering if he at last had run out of emotions.
Wondering if he was just an empty shell. 'Maybe' he chided
himself, 'I'm just a tin man without a heart.' Finally, unable to
find anything inside but emptiness, he turned away and drove slowly
Tossing his drenched outer coat aside, Jack realized he was
frozen almost to the bone. Heading for the bath, he ran the shower to
warm the water up, as he stripped off his dress blues. He was carefully
hanging the jacket up in the closet, when he felt the unmistakable
crinkle of paper in the inner breast pocket. Reaching inside, he pulled
out the envelope that General Hammond had given him earlier at the wake.
It was addressed simply 'Jack' in Janet's bold, yet feminine, hand. The
General had given each of SG-1 a similar missive, with a sad smile,
admonishing them to 'open this when you can find a quiet time alone.'
The way George had said it, let Jack know he'd already read his own, and
that it still weighed heavy on his emotions.
Jack, caught up in the events of the day, had forgotten about it.
Setting the envelope aside with a cold shiver of dread, he headed for
the warmth of a hot shower. Stepping into the relaxing mist, he allowed
the hot, soothing, water to cascade over his aching shoulders, gingerly
soaping his tired body, still careful of his healing abdominal wounds.
Slowly, the feeling of cold left his weary body, but the icy
empty, feeling, in his chest did not.
Toweling off, he slipped into a pair of comfortable ragged jeans
and an old shirt. Then thoughtfully picking up the letter, he padded
bare footed into the living room and poured himself three fingers of
fine Irish whiskey.
He sat back for sometime nursing his drink, mentally bracing
himself and staring at the letter. Trying to summon the courage to open
it. Sighing, he finally decided to 'suck it up airman' and turning on a
small table lamp, opened the sealed envelope carefully and began to
"Dear Jack if you are reading this then the unthinkable has
happened and I am dead. I am sure that if it were at all possible, you
of all people would have done all in your power to prevent such an
occurrence. But Jack, you are not God and despite what you may think,
not responsible for the safety of all those around you."
'Ah Janet,' Jack thought, 'you knew me only too
well.' He had been feeling guilty; guilty that he'd gotten them all
into trouble. As the leader he should have anticipated the enemies every
move. He should have been the one who did not come home, not the gentle,
caring, and sometimes Napoleonic Doc. The next phrase she'd written
caused him to abruptly stop his mental self-flagellation.
"I know you very well Colonel and I caution you to let that
guilt go! Or else I will haunt you, if I possibly can. Hey if Daniel
could manage it I am sure I can!"
Despite himself, Jack smiled at the picture of the Doc floating
above him, a ghostly penlight in hand, demanding he let the guilt go.
"I need you to be there for Cassie. You know Jack, she
thinks of you like a Father and She is really going to need you to be
there for her now. Besides, you always seem to relate to her better than
either Sam or I ever could. I know I can count on you Jack."
"Therefore, as my lawyer will be informing you, I have
requested that both you and Sam, share guardianship of my most precious
possession (if a child can be referred to as such). Guard her and
cherish her, as I know only you can."
"Since that first disaster of a mission, when you became
infected with the aggression virus and begged me to use you to find a
cure, you have been my hero Jack O'Neill, whether you like it or not!
And I am confident I am choosing wisely."
Unbidden, the cloudy memories of that day flooded Jack's mind. He
remembered how determined Janet had been to help him. The sad and
empathetic look in her eyes. How despite his own violence toward
himself, he could not harm the gentle Doctor and had pleaded with her to
use him as guinea pig to find a cure. They'd forged a special bond that
day. A bond he would sorely miss.
"Please take care of yourself my friend, I will no longer
be there to worry and pull you through, the many scrapes you seem to get
yourself into. On the bright side, no more penlight shining into your
eyes, no Napoleonic Power Monger to boss you around."
Jack smiled ironically, remembering all the times he'd referred
to the Doc in those terms and felt his heart begin to ache. Tears
gathered in his eyes blurring the words before him.
"Those of us who know you, understand just how big a heart
you have Jack. Despite your best efforts to pretend otherwise."
"And so to steal and paraphrase a line from one of
your favorite films my dear and 'tough' friend... I shall
miss you most of all, my own wonderful Tin Man.
Jack O'Neill, seasoned soldier, officer, friend and 'Tin Man,'
folded the letter carefully. Then tucking it into the shirt pocket over
his heart, he wept.